Beginning this week, 95 softball teams from 28 different states will be competing for the top spot in the USA/Amateur Softball Association 2012 Girls’ Class “A” Fast Pitch 18-Under National Championship.
While the tournament only lasts about eight days at Winged Deer Park in Johnson City and White Top Park in Bristol, the effects of that week can be measured in just how much is expected to be spent by the players, coaches, family members and friends traveling to the region.
The tournament kicks off today with the opening ceremony festivities at Freedom Hall Civic Center. The championship game will be played Aug. 5 at Winged Deer.
Tournament organizers have estimated the economic impact of this tournament to be upward of $3 million.
And that’s not an unreasonable figure when you factor in that nearly 4,000 people will be in the area for the weeklong tournament, spending money at local hotels, restaurants and stores.
“Everyone will benefit because we’re using White Top in Bristol and they’re going to be using as many hotel rooms as they need, so we’re all going to benefit. They’re going to play here and eat here and visit other attractions in the region in between their off-time when they’re not playing. This whole community and our neighbors are going to benefit,” Johnson City Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gary Mabrey said.
The city’s numerous hotels have been gearing up for the arrival of the players and their families for weeks.
A third of the rooms at Courtyard Marriott, 4025 Hamilton Place, have been reserved for tournament participants.
“We have teams coming in from all over the country, and it’s going to be such a great opportunity to showcase the area and all the hospitality, the attractions, the restaurants — everyone is going to benefit from this tremendously,” Courtyard Director of Sales Lisa Tolliver said.
ASA only has five national tournaments a year, making each one a significant economic win for cities that get the chance to host the championship.
Although the area has hosted ASA tournaments since 1993, this is the largest tournament the Chamber of Commerce, the Johnson City Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Johnson City Parks and Recreation Department have organized.
ASA State Commissioner and Parks and Recreation Athletics Director James Ellis said that partnership is what has helped Johnson City become a destination location for these tournaments.
Without those entities working together, the local economy would be able to reap the benefits of having prestigious tournaments make their way to the area.
“Those folks together are a winning team. There are Knoxvilles and the Nashvilles and the L.A.’s that have an international airport, which makes it more convenient. There are the cities that have the 10,000 or 20,000 hotel rooms, so for little old Johnson City to accomplish what we accomplish on a national level, it speaks volumes for the three partners who play in this game,” Ellis said.
Ellis has been involved with ASA since the first tournament was brought to Johnson City in the 1990s.
With a partnership that has lasted for nearly 20 years, Ellis said being a host city is something that he and other Johnson Citians can take pride in.
While softball is certainly the driving force behind the tournament, it’s an important way for Johnson City to market itself to people from other cities.
“In an expensive marketing tool for us, and yet at the same time, these parents and these families are choosing to come here for this national championship and taking a week or 10 days. They want to win, and they want their daughters to do well and they want their teams to do well, and at the end of the day, we want them to do well, so they will choose us again in the future,” Mabrey said.
That spotlight on the area will likely grow even more this year, as the games are being live-streamed during the tournament — a first in the tournament’s history — by CenturyLink and the Washington County Economic Development Council.
The streaming will include commercials, post-game interviews and daily wrap-ups.
Mabrey said that inclusion into this year’s tournament is invaluable.
“We’re going to have a constant commercial streaming that if we had to buy the air time from any of the national affiliates, we couldn’t afford it. So there’s a priceless link that we’re getting with CenturyLink and our nation, and all these families will be able to join in,” he said.
For more on the tournament, including schedules and live-streaming information, visit JohnsonCity